Game Of Thrones returned to screens last week for its final season, and — save for a few caveats — delivered a pretty great opening episode. There was heartbreak, humour and reunions aplenty as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) rode into Winterfell to prepare the Northerners for the war to come.
The second episode continued the HBO series’ trend of delivering in pretty much every department, as ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ brought together a more-or-less united army. Well, except for Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) of course, who’s presence left our leaders divided. I found Daenerys using her father’s death as a reason to condemn Jaimie a bit odd. Perhaps it was a tactic to scare him — and if so then it’s justified — but considering she often voices her dislike of her father — aka The Mad King — and all that he represented, some of this scene felt a little forced. I also found it somewhat odd that she never made reference to the attempt Jaimie made on her life. In spite of the hostilities — and with a little help from Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) — the Kingslayer managed to save his life and convince Dany that he’s needed for the war.
Jaime’s reunion with Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) was a particular highlight of the episode, primarily because the Bran of the first four seasons would’ve scolded the Lannister soldier for what he did to him, but being the Three-Eyed Raven has given the young Stark boy a sense of purpose — and with that purpose comes the knowledge that Jaime is too important to the war effort. What’s more, Bran’s words regarding whether or not there’s an ‘after’ are no doubt of extreme importance too, as some characters might not make it out of the approaching battle alive. Will either of these two be one of them though?
Much like last week, I’m having problems with Daenerys’ characterisation this season. One minute she’s being presented as a power-hungry maniac — despite having never shown these personality traits before — and the next she’s the loving, kind queen we fell in love with during her adventures in Slaver’s Bay. It’s as if the writers are trying to villainise her in an attempt to make us believe she’d put the crown before her people — perhaps to give Jon something to be conflicted and broody about — but this it doesn’t really work considering Dany has put her people before the throne countless times before.
The pacing of this instalment was well-handled by legendary GoT writer Bryan Cogman — who’s penned some of the series’ greatest episodes including ‘Oathkeeper’ and last season’s ‘Stormborn’ — as Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), Edd (Ben Crompton) and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) arrived at the Winterfell gates and — after a heartfelt reunion with Jon — they informed the former King In The North of what happened up at Last Hearth — a fact which nicely steers much of the plot along. With the Umbers dead and The Night King and his army of the dead closing in, the anticipation — both ours and the protagonists’ — for the biggest battle of them all began.
Yes, the news of the imminent threat resulted in a great sense of suspense being built throughout the remainder of the instalment. The interesting thing is that the fear of death not only rallied our heroes to join forces, but it also gave them a chance to let their hair down and to have one last night of glory, as they drank themselves silly in fear of not having the opportunity to do so again.
In a way, ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ is nothing more than a whole lotta fan service, but — with the exception of Dany removing her hand from Sansa’s when things didn’t go her way — not one bit of it felt contrived. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) drank and made clear that he knows things once more, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) passionately kissed — possibly for the last time, Tormund tried to win Brienne’s affection by telling her that he once bedded a giant’s wife because, well, Tormund, and Jaime shared an emotional moment with Brienne, as he gave her the one thing she’d always wanted — a knighthood. Brienne and Jaimie’s moment serves as a reminder us of how far The Kingslayer has come and, as much of his character growth was down to Brienne, there was something rather poetic about the whole thing.
Not sure how I feel about Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) getting it on though. I always imagined them having more of a brother and sister type of relationship — and no, not in a Jaime and Cersei (Lena Headey) kind of way! It felt a little forced. In contrast, the young girl’s confrontations with Beric and The Hound (Rory McCann) were perfect.
Cogman’s script brought together multiple sources of conflict, creating a beautiful dilemma for
Daenerys at the very end, as she finally learned that Jon is the true-born heir to the Seven Kingdoms — right before the White Walkers arrived. In this episode, we learned that both these protagonists are in love with each other, which has intensified the conflict even more. It’s not the small matter of Dany being Jon’s aunt that’s her problem, but rather the fact that he’s a man, which — by Westeros’ archaic law — gives him a better claim to the throne than her. Will she stay and fight for the man she loves? Probably — or at least, Dany from the first seven seasons would. Perhaps her riding Drogon into battle will be the proof the Northern Lords need to recognise her as their queen?
For an episode where virtually nothing happened, ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ proved to be a highly important instalment, and it reminds us that — underneath all that armour and those stunning fur coats — every one of these heroic protagonists are simply people. And like all people, they fear death. Unfortunately for them, however, death has literally arrived at their gates, and the stage has been set for what’s undoubtedly going to be the biggest battle the television screen — possibly any sized screen, for that matter — has ever seen. We’ve had the Battle of the Blackwater, the Battle of the Bastards, and now it’s time for the Battle of Winterfell. Guys… is it next Sunday yet?
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
Game of Thrones continues Monday at 2am on Sky Atlantic with a more regular showing at 9pm.